Thursday, September 20, 2012   11:37 PM

The Action of the Mind

Here is the abstract of my recently published article on physics issues relevant to the action of the mind, i.e.,  to the production of physical change in matter by non-physical means. The article primarily discusses this action in terms of free will, but similar physics considerations would apply to other types of mental action, such as PK.

Burns, J. E. (2012), The action of the mind. In I. Fredriksson (Ed.), Aspects of Consciousness (pp. 204-216). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Abstract: It is assumed that mental action, such as free will, exists, and an exploration is made of its relationship to the brain, physical laws, and evolutionary selection. If the assumption is made that all content of conscious experience is encoded in the brain, it follows that free will must act as process only. This result is consistent with the experimental results of Libet and others that if free will exists, it must act by making a selection between alternatives provided by the brain. Also, proposals for some additional actions of consciousness, besides free will, are reviewed.

The use of mental action by consciousness is not in accord with presently known physics, in which physical changes are either deterministic or random, and an extension would have to be made to known physics to account for physical changes produced by such an action. However, such an extension could be fairly simple in overview, such as the assumption that consciousness can produce the ordering of randomness. Examples of several such theories are given.

If consciousness can make selections among programs in the brain/nervous system, and thereby contribute to the formation of behavior, less programming would be needed, especially in situations affected by a variety of types of factors. For this reason consciousness might be present early in the evolutionary line for animals that explore new territory. Emotions and cognitive ability, even though determined by the brain, could be viewed as “choice guiders,” and for this reason their presence in an animal would indicate the presence of consciousness.

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